Authenticating Ethnic Tourism – Tourism and Cultural Change
By Philip Feifan Xie, Channel View Publications, Bristol, Buffalo, Toronto, 2011, 272 pp., ISBN 978-1-84541-157-2
As the book title Authenticating Ethnic Tourism says, this book addresses the question of authenticity in ethnic tourism. The main questions in the book are what authentication is, how it works, who is involved and what the problems in the process are. The book is organized in eight chapters. As an introduction to each chapter the author starts with an anecdote from news reports or academic books.
The first chapter brings the example of the ethnic children's performance during the 2008 Olympics Opening Ceremony in Beijing, illustrating two basic concepts in this chapter: ethnicity and authenticity.
Discussing the cycle of authenticity in the second chapter, the author suggests that the origins of cultural forms have eventually faded and vanished, while others have emerged as 'authentic' ethnic cultures. He proposes a conceptual framework on the issue of authentication by identifying key stakeholders involved in ethnic tourism.
In the next chapter, Hainan Island is presented with its unique geographic characteristics, residents, its history and the history of tourism development. The author also introduces the ethnic Li minority, their heritage, identity, rituals, customs and involvement with tourism. Folk villages on Hainan Island, presented in this chapter, are the basis for most of the examples through which authenticity is examined. The meaning of authenticity has been constantly influenced by tourist tastes, cultural authorities and a demand of running the village as a business. Since a large number of stakeholders is involved in the negotiation of authenticity, and each of these is likely to hold its own perspectives on authenticity, the author gives special attention to these issues in the following chapters.
The perspective on authenticity at national, provincial and local levels is discussed in chapter 4, while in the fifth chapter the author examines how Li dancers (as a part of the ethnic minority) view the issue of authenticity. He presents their opinion regarding Hainan's folk villages and their attitude towards tourism, describing how they cope with their minority status.
Chapter 6 provides an analysis of tourist surveys in three selected villages. The tourists' perception of authenticity, their assessments of the villages and products, and levels of satisfaction are compared. The primary purpose of this study is to describe the profile of domestic tourists on Hainan and their views on the authenticity of the ethnic cultural presentation. The chapter first introduces domestic tourists on Hainan, including a background of three folk villages in which the survey was undertaken. It then presents the results of a sample survey of 586 visitors to the three folk villages.
Chapter 7 seeks to understand authentication from the business perception, and presents the results of interviews with business people (owners, site managers, employees and community members), which all operate under similar conditions in the selected two folk villages.
In the last chapter, the reader can find a summary of the findings in the preceding chapters. In this chapter, the author illustrates the interests of each identified stakeholder group vis-à-vis the authentication process.
At the end of the book there is a short epilogue, starting with an interesting example from the book Authenticity in Bolivian Music Performance, and finishing with the author's recommendations for ethnic tourism on Hainan. The book reveals some significant findings that will contribute to the literature on cultural and ethnic tourism in developing areas, while intending to provide guidance for those involved in tourism based on ethnic culture.
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